A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Triathlon……

Okay, so it wasn’t really funny. It was not funny at all.  A week before the New York City triathlon, my son had an accident- not life threatening, thank heavens, but devastating. He broke his leg in two places and was in sheer agony.  His surgery was scheduled for the day before the race. I didn’t defer the race right away because I thought he would have surgery and everything would be fine.  I figured he would leave the hospital and I would see him at home, after the race.  However, in the days preceding his surgery, when I saw the kind of pain he was in, I just knew that I would not be in the proper frame of mind to compete in the race.

This triathlon was supposed to be fun, a challenge, a goal. While I had done several sprint triathlons, I had never competed in an Olympic triathlon. I was all ready- I had bought a new racing bike and a wet suit. I biked early in the mornings and swam laps in the bay. Yet none of those things would matter to me knowing that my son was suffering.

There would be other races. In fact, several weeks later, when my son was firmly in rehab and working on walking again, I competed in a sprint triathlon.  It was exciting and fun and definitely challenging as the water was as choppy as an ocean swim. Yet, in the back of my mind, I couldn’t help but feel a bit of a let down since I had done these distances before- 15 years before.

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After the race, I immediately thought that I would do an Olympic distance triathlon in a few weeks, before the season ended. However, when I really thought about how much I had taken on in my life in the past few months, I reassessed my priorities. My new job has been taking up an enormous amount of time- and rightfully so. Let’s just say that 10 hour work days are the norm. With the start of the new job, I had packed a house, moved to a condo,  and my son had the accident. To top it off, for many reasons, we are still living in boxes without any furniture. All the while I am still trying to keep up with the blog, workout, volunteer and be a member of the Social Committee at my new residence.

So I made the decision to not train for the Olympic triathlon. I packed my wetsuit away where it will remain for a few months. My race season is over for now. As I contemplated my decision, I realized that everything had become too much. I had taken on more responsibilities than I could conceivably handle in a short amount of time.

Why do we do these things to ourselves? Why do we overcommit ourselves to things that we know are over our heads? Why is it that sometimes when the words, “No problem, I can do it” come flying out of our mouths, do we wish we could retract them? Is it the innate competitiveness in us? Is it FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out)? Must we keep doing- day in and day out- keep pushing- always? I can’t be the only one who does this.

I think I know why I sometimes take on too many responsibilities or commitments at one time. It’s because I am always striving to be the best person that I can be- and for me that means taking on a full plate of work, activities and commitments. I foolishly believe that I can handle anything- keep piling it on- if it is important- I can do it. “Yes, I can help out at the soup kitchen”- even though I am involved in many other volunteer commitments; “Yes, I will get up and run with you at 6am”- even though I will be out super late the previous night; “Yes, I will volunteer for the Social Committee”- even though I have zero free time.

As I get older, I am re-evaluating exactly what projects I have time for and yes- I have learned to say “No.” It is difficult for me because I always want to help or lend a hand when I can and I sometimes do not realize until after I have said “Yes” that I really should have said,”No.”

However, I’m still learning and as I wrote in one of my previous blogs, “You can teach an old dog new tricks.”

 

Endurance Athletes and Older Athletes- Impressive, Crazy Or Both?

Endurance is defined as “the ability or strength to continue or last, especially despite fatigue, stress or other adverse conditions; stamina.” This post was supposed to be about how we endure as athletes. Unfortunately from when I started writing this post to the time it was published- just a few days- my family was rocked with devastating news. A man who has been like a father to my husband and a wonderful person in my life for almost 30 years- has been suddenly diagnosed with what looks to be a significant tumor. We continue to be hopeful for better news. My friend at work just buried her 19 year-old son who died in a car accident on his birthday. Each of these families must dig deep to find the strength to go on, to endure, despite the insurmountable pain in their lives.

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How do athletes endure the physical and mental pain as they push themselves to the brink? Ultra marathons are distance events which are longer than the marathon distance of 26.2 miles. Were these ultra marathons created out of necessity? Maybe after a particularly grueling marathon, a group of athletes were standing around asking, “Is that it?” “Shouldn’t there be more?” – to the disbelief of the rest of the runners who were collapsed on the ground gasping for air like fish out of water and wiping up the crime scene cut-out of sweat imbedded in the pavement.

Typically, ultra marathons are 50 miles and 100 miles. Seriously? Training for these races can be a grueling process. Yet the number of new participants to this sport is increasing rapidly each year. Why are competitors being drawn to these events? One of the reasons is for bragging rights. The most common appeal of ultra marathons is a desire to complete an event which so few competitors even attempt and even fewer accomplish. That is the main reason why I am considering training for an Ironman. I think it would be very cool to say to myself that I finished an Ironman race. Most athletes are constantly challenging themselves. A typical distance runner may grow bored of their usual running regimen and will look to train for an ultra marathon to shake things up.

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Endurance athletes, like all athletes, must be both mentally and physically tough. Athletes must be tough not just to endure the many races they run or the length of the races, but their goal is usually to triumph. They must be tenacious, patient, persistent and effective problem solvers.

Recently, my 17-year-old son who plays ice hockey at an elite level, woke up in the morning of a play-off game with a stomach virus. In the car ride to the rink, my husband told him about Michael Jordan’s “fever game.” It was 1997 and the Bulls/ Jazz series was tied 2-2. The day before game 5, Jordan, suffering from 104 degrees fever, stayed in bed with the medical team watching over him, doubting that he would be in any condition to play game 5. Suffering from fatigue, dehydration, nausea and dizzy spells, Jordan missed two team practices as the doctors pumped him with fluids hoping to flush out the intestinal bug.

During the first quarter of the game, Jordan was essentially useless, but in the second quarter, something clicked for him, mentally, physically and emotionally. He scored 17 points in the second quarter. Later, he told the media, “It was all about desire…somehow I found the energy to stay strong.” At halftime, Jordan was given fluids and cold towels. In the third quarter, nausea and fatigue returned and he was useless. In the fourth quarter, Jordan somehow found the strength to turn it on again. Jordan scored the winning basket with a total of 38 points for the game. The Bulls won 88-85. After the game, Jordan said, “that was probably the most difficult thing I’ve ever done.” It was an epic performance by Michael Jordan, just one of the many reasons why he is referred to as the greatest basketball player of all time. It’s about dealing with adversity and finding the strength to persevere when we think that we can no longer go on. That day, my son managed to have a spectacular game and afterwards when my husband asked him how he did it, he said, “I just tried to put the pain out of my mind and I thought about how the team was counting on me, I just dug deep.”

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The power of the human spirit can be very strong.  What about those athletes who choose to compete at an age well beyond when the rest of society calls it quits. Why would a 94-year-old woman still want to run track? Because she can. Olga Kotelko is a 94-year-old track star from West Vancouver. She took up running at 77-years-old. Almost 20 years later, she still does aqua training three times a week, bowls, gardens, lifts weights at the gym and trains for track-and-field competitions- including 100- meter races, javelin and shot put. She is the center of a study focusing on exercise and gerontology at the Montreal Chest Institute at McGill University.

What drives 83-year-old Australian Ray Moon to be the oldest competing body builder in the world? Moon has won four Victorian and Australian body building competitions and is considered by Guinness World Records to be the oldest bodybuilder in the world. Moon has had polio, open-heart surgery, suffered cardiac arrest, two minor strokes and was once declared clinically dead. He has had a pacemaker and a hernia, but instead of giving up, he found the gym. “Giving up never won a race,” he said. He began bodybuilding only eight years ago and does five strength and cardio sessions a week, including approximately 4 miles on the treadmill and 45 minutes of weight training.  After taking two years off to battle bladder cancer, Moon has returned to competition. “I’m nowhere nearly as good as these fellows who are 50 or 60. But age is no barrier. Life is what you make it.” A strong message- “Life is what you make it.” Take control of your life.

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“In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility”- Eleanor Roosevelt

Discipline- How to Stay In Control When Your Motivation Wears Off

How do you stay disciplined when working out or in a fitness routine? How do you get your self-control back when you are on a diet?

Willpower is defined as, “control of one’s impulses and actions; self-control. “ We have all struggled (and continue to struggle) with self-control at some point in our lives. Why do we fall off the discipline wagon and lose all self-control?

I know that sometimes I lose control because I forget the big picture. I become so focused on instant gratification. What will make me happy right now? Maybe it is the pizza place that I happen to be passing and I’m starving because it’s way past my lunch time or it is the fast food place that I happen to be right near on my way back to the office. It becomes easy to just have that slice of pizza or that fast food snack because I’m starving and I have failed to plan. “Fail to plan, plan to fail.” This is why so much emphasis is placed on planning meals ahead of time and figuring in snacks to have on hand at all times. We are human and when we get hungry or tired, our defenses start to break down and at that moment, looking fab at the beach doesn’t seem as important.

Those of us who do not work all day in an office environment or work somewhere where it is difficult to eat regular meals at regular times, have an extra burden. During the day, not all of of us have access to a refrigerator and microwave to heat up healthy foods. Some days I leave the house at 7 a.m. and I am on the run until 2 p.m. or 3 p.m., whereby the only thing I can eat during that time is a protein bar or nuts. I recognize this and I have to plan accordingly on those days. When I do not have healthy snacks with me, it takes all of my will power not to grab the readily available candy bar or hot dog and fries. It all comes down to- how bad do you want it? Are you willing to forgo instant gratification today for results that you want tomorrow?

Staying disciplined builds consistency. Try reiterating a phrase that keeps you going- “No pain, no gain”- “Nothing tastes as good as thin feels”- “Bathing suit- soon!” Make the time to stick with your plan- free time does not materialize. Make an effort to do one thing a day that moves you closer to your goal- no matter how big or small. Cook a healthy dish, change-up your work out routine or research your dream job or dream vacation. Take baby steps- taking action in the direction of your goal will lead you to it one step at a time.

Years ago I was desperate to stay on the healthy eating track. I wore a rubber band on my wrist and whenever I was faced with eating something that was very unhealthy, I would snap the rubber band to snap me back to reality.

Remember these four tips for helping you to achieve your goal: responsibility: do what you say that you are going to do; accountability: do it when you say that you are going to do it; effort: do it to the best of your ability and consistency: do it all the time. Stay focused and always keep your eye on the ultimate goal. “”Obstacles are what you see when you take your eyes off of the goal”- Vince Lombardi

This easy, healthy deviled egg recipe will keep you on track. Deviled eggs last for days in the refrigerator and can be an anytime snack or a supplement to any meal.

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Deviled Eggs

6 hard boiled eggs (can be bought in the supermarket)
1/4 cup mayonnaise (regular or Paleo mayonnaise can be bought at Whole Foods)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
pinch of paprika (optional)

1) If home boiled, first take the shells off the eggs and cut in half lengthwise. Carefully remove the yolks and place in a small bowl.
2) Finely mash the yolks with a fork. Add mayonnaise, salt and pepper to the mashed yolks. Mix together until smooth.
3) Spoon yolk mixture into egg white centers. Sprinkle with paprika, if desired. Cover eggs and refrigerate until ready to eat.

For an easy to make, delicious, festive, semi-healthy treat:

Dark Chocolate and Pomegranate Bark

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5 ounces (140 grams) of dark chocolate
2 tablespoons (20 grams) of minced crystallized ginger (can be found at Trader Joes or Whole Foods)
1 cup (140 grams) fresh pomegranate seeds (can be found at Trader Joes)
1 teaspoon (6 grams) sea salt (can use less salt if desired)

1) Line a small baking sheet with parchment paper.
2) Melt chocolate in a double boiler or microwave but be careful not to burn the chocolate- keep stirring until it fully melts.
3) Stir in the crystallized ginger and half of the pomegranate seeds into the melted chocolate.
4) Pour the melted chocolate mixture onto the parchment lined baking sheet. Use a spatula or the back of a spoon to smooth the chocolate into one even layer about 1/4 inch thick. It does not need to fill the entire sheet.
5) Sprinkle the chocolate with the remaining pomegranate seeds and sea salt. Chill for 20 to 30 minutes or until firm. Break or cut into pieces and store in an airtight container, separating the layers with wax paper. It is best served the day it’s made or else condensation may form on the surface of the chocolate.

What Do Guys Think?

What do guys think of when they are at the gym? Recently, a 20-something year old guy started working out at my gym. This dude has a well built physique that makes almost everyone at the gym gawk when working out in his presence. Are guys at the gym secretly measuring themselves up against him? Covertly figuring out how much weight he back squats? Do guys silently discount his well-defined chest by thinking that they would have a spectacular body too, if they were that young? Eventually the guys did approach him and  some have even started a bromance with the hunky athlete. Obviously, it is always wrong to make snap judgments based on someone’s appearance.

This is something that I was guilty of when I first joined Crossfit. I would look at some of the other girls and think- “she has such huge biceps- that’s probably all she does- bench press 200 pounds morning and night.” Or I would look at a woman’s face as she was doing her front squats- thinking- “she looks so mean and tough” Never mind that she is so focused on what she is doing that smiling is not on her mind. I remember when I saw the girl with a fantastic body- muscular, well-toned, tight abs. I thought that she must never eat and she probably spends all of her time at the gym.Turns out that she loves pizza and chocolate, has a busy, full-time job and she takes days off from the gym. She has become a friend. Or the beauty queen who shows up in full make up with her hair blown out. Well, she ran a 6 minute mile. Mea culpa. The toughest looking women at the gym have turned out to be very kind, helpful and friendly. And I have seen some of the less built women lift very heavy weights- sometimes surpassing what I can lift.

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Comparing ourselves to others can be a good thing if we use someone else’s achievements as a goal or a benchmark for ourselves. When you set a goal for yourself, you get long-term vision and short term motivation. Setting clearly defined goals lets you measure and take pride in your achievements of those goals. As you recognize your ability and competence in achieving goals that you’ve set, you will raise your self-confidence. Keep your goals simple, clear and focused. An interesting article in Forbes magazine defines 6 ways to achieve any goal. http://www.forbes.com/sites/glassheel/2013/03/14/6-ways-to-achieve-any-goal/

If you think you may want to compete in a 5k race- start by setting a goal to run a half mile three times a week. Slowly work up to adding more mileage to your run, until you achieve your goal. What is important is that we recognize our own limitations and do not strive to achieve something that is beyond our reach. I dislike the word impossible because in my mind, I want to believe that anything is possible at any time. Miracles do happen and I can achieve anything I set my mind to. I never want to think that I am too old or too weak or too inexperienced to do anything. Watch out Jay- lately I have been talking about the possibility of both of us competing in an Ironman to celebrate our 50th birthdays. A pipe dream? Maybe. We’ll see. Keep reading my posts to find out.

In the meantime, I look to other people at the gym and in my life for inspiration, not to judge them. Because regardless of how we perceive someone, to partially quote the last line in one of my favorite movies, “The Breakfast Club” – “…each one of us is a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal.”

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